Back in October 2002, Condi Rice was certain she knew how to keep North Korea in line.
North Korea’s collapsed economy gives the United States and its allies the diplomatic leverage to convince the communist regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, Rice said.
“North Korea has been signaling and saying that it wants to break out of its economic isolation,” Rice told CNN’s “Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer.” “It has to break out of its economic isolation.
“This is a regime that in terms of its economic condition is going down for the third time. Its people are starving.”
But Rice said, “It’s not going to break out of that isolation while it’s brandishing a nuclear weapon.”
U.S. officials have launched a “full-court press of consultations” with other countries in the region to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to give up the nuclear weapons effort, Rice said.
The North Korean disclosure comes as the Bush administration faces a possible military confrontation with Iraq over its efforts to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he considered North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and missile capability a bigger threat to the United States than Iraq.
Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged the White House to rethink its priorities.
But Rice said Iraq’s history shows the Baghdad regime is harder to contain than North Korea.
“These are not comparable situations,” she said. “They’re dangerous, both of them dangerous. But we believe that we have different methods that will work in North Korea that clearly have not and will not work in Iraq.”
Now it’s October 2006. North Korea claims it is about to test a nuclear bomb. This morning South Korean soldiers fired warning shots at North Korean troops that had crossed the border, and Pyongyang threatens “catastrophe.”
Where is Secretary of State Rice today, btw? She’s off the radar at the moment. She may be in hiding after her recent trip to Iraq. From an editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times:
AFTER CIRCLING THE BAGHDAD airport for 40 minutes because of mortar and rocket fire, traveling by helicopter to the Green Zone to avoid the deadly bomb-strewn highway into the city and holding a meeting with President Jalal Talabani in darkness because the power was suddenly cut off, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a news conference Thursday to talk about all the progress being made in Iraq.
Latest news from Iraq, courtesy of the Washington Post:
The number of U.S troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two years as American GIs fight block-by-block in Baghdad to try to check a spiral of sectarian violence that U.S. commanders warn could lead to civil war.
Last month, 776 U.S. troops were wounded in action in Iraq, the highest number since the military assault to retake the insurgent-held city of Fallujah in November 2004, according to Defense Department data. It was the fourth-highest monthly total since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Nicholas Kristof suggests we should listen to the Iraqis.
Iraqis are crystal clear about what the U.S. should do: announce a timetable for withdrawal of our troops within one year. Theyâ€™re right. Our failure to declare a timetable and, above all, our coveting long-term military bases in Iraq feed the insurgency and end up killing more young Americans.
A terrifying new poll conducted last month found that 61 percent of Iraqis now approve of attacks on Americans. That figure, up from 47 percent in January, makes counter-insurgency efforts almost impossible, because ordinary people now cheer, shelter and protect those who lay down bombs to kill Americans. The big change is that while Iraqi Sunnis were always in favor of blowing up Americans, members of the Shiite majority are now 50 percent more likely to support violent attacks against Americans than they were in January.
The poll, by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, also found that 78 percent of Iraqis now believe that the American military presence is â€œprovoking more conflict than it is preventing.â€
Over the past three years the violence has spread and is now franchised down to neighborhoods with local gangs in control. In many areas, local militias are not even controlled by their supposed political masters in Baghdad. In this kind of decentralized street fighting, 10,000 or 20,000 more troops in Baghdad will not have more than a temporary effect. Nor will new American policies help. The reason that the Democrats seem to lack good, concrete suggestions on Iraq is that the Bush administration has actually been pursuing more- sensible policies for more than a year now, trying vainly to reverse many of its errors. But what might well have worked in 2003 is too little, too late in 2006.
Iraq is now in a civil war. Thirty thousand Iraqis have died there in the past three years, more than in many other conflicts widely recognized as civil wars. The number of internal refugees, mostly Sunni victims of ethnic cleansing, has exploded over the past few months, and now exceeds a quarter of a million people. (The Iraqi government says 240,000, but this doesn’t include Iraqis who have fled abroad or who may not have registered their move with the government.) The number of attacks on Shiite mosques increases every week: there have been 69 such attacks since February, compared with 80 in the previous two and a half years. And the war is being fought on gruesome new fronts. CBS News’s Lara Logan has filed astonishing reports on the Health Ministry, which is run by supporters of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. According to Logan, hospitals in Baghdad and Karbala are systematically killing Sunni patients and then dumping their bodies in mass graves.
If I were Condi Rice I’d be off the radar, too. I don’t believe she’s scheduled for the talk shows today; we’ll see.
I want to go back to Korea for a moment. Rightie mythos says that it’s Bill Clinton’s fault that North Korea has nukes. I explained here why this is nonsense; it was Bush who screwed up, not Clinton. See also “Rolling Blunder” by Fred Kaplan and the Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes page from The Mahablog archives. I’m not going to re-explain all that this morning, except to say that the series of Bushie blunders that led to North Korea resuming plutonium processing was partly a reaction to diplomatic talks between Japan and North Korea. And why was that a problem? Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had gone to North Korea to work out a long-range missile agreement without consulting the United States first.
Well, today it appears that Japan and China have stepped into the foreign policy vacuum created by the implosion of U.S. global influence. (And is it significant that Shinzo Abe, Japan’s brand-new Prime Minister, made China his first official overseas destination? China and Japan haven’t had bilateral talks for years.) This seems to me a pretty clear indicator of how much our standing in the world has fallen.
And if you want to hear more about the progress we’re making in Iraq, read Peter Beaumont in today’s Observer: “Hidden victims of a brutal conflict: Iraq’s women.”
All together now — we’re doin’ a heck of a job.
See also: Michael Hirsh, “Ike Was Right.”